The other primaries: PJ gambit in Miranda and Aragua

Let's start for the easiest one to discuss and the only one that has reliable polls for some of the races. Primero Justicia is trying to with Miranda what UNT has done in Zulia: transform the state into its political base and try from there to hopscotch elsewhere, like in next door Aragua.  For this it is willing to burn bridges and antagonize whoever it needs to.

Miranda governor

If there are five crucial races to watch in Venezuela next February, the Miranda primary for governor maybe the most telling one of the lot.  It pits former governor Mendoza of COPEI to "upstart" mayor of Petare PJ's Ocariz.  Mendoza should have been governor in lieu of Capriles but in 2008 he was "inhabilitado", barred from running through an administrative fiat of the regime.  He swallowed hard and was good sport enough to help Capriles win Miranda with his still significant popularity and electoral machine.  He expected to have the elevator sent back to him as soon as his legal if unfair limitation was lifted but no.  PJ in 2010 had quite a hard time to accept relinquishing a safe seat to Mendoza for the National Assembly.  Thus the stage was set for today's dispute where Mendoza ads have no qualms in using Capriles weakest spot of his administration, security.

Not that I want to defend Capriles but with the emergencies that he had to face because of the weather and the excessive sabotage by chavismo upset at him unseating Diosdado Cabello from Miranda and trying to investigate him for corruption, Capriles could barely breathe enough to face the emergencies and could simply not put security as a top priority.

The dispute has been long brewing and COPEI used all its contacts, with AD, inside the Unidad to force Capriles to either run for president or for reelection and thus forcing PJ to put up for grabs Miranda.  PJ took the challenge because it has a good candidate with Ocariz who in spite of all sabotaging by chavismo and an unrepresentative local council still managed to improve things in the difficult and popular district of Sucre which includes the Eastern part of Caracas choke-full of slums.

Thus the interest of the race: on one side we have the old system represented by one of its ablest managers with Henrique Mendoza and the new "upstarts" of Primero Justicia helped by chavismo dissidence.  A bellwether race if any!  Unfortunately for Mendoza, having been away for two terms and having been unable to make good figuration in the national assembly in 2011 the race will almost certainly go for Ocariz, pulled by Capriles at the top of the ticket.  Polls indicate that already. Politics is a particularly ungrateful bitch....

Miranda districts

Here PJ is aiming for the grand slam and as far as I know all districts are going to primaries with always a PJ candidate running against all the others.  The prognosis is that PJ should win the primary everywhere except perhaps in the Caracas districts of Baruta and Chacao.

Sucre which is left behind by Ocariz has the good fortune for PJ to have a candidate with a certain Caldera who actually did get better known through his job at the National Assembly.  Thus that district of Caracas should remain in the hands of PJ in any election.  But the other districts of Caracas are another matter and even victories there by PJ may not be that helpful in the long run for the resentment that they will bring.

First there is the unnecessary and even mean attempt by PJ to force its way back into Chacao town-hall now presided by Grateron of Voluntad Popular, their only elected position in the country so far for the party of Leopoldo Lopez.  This is a mean move and probably due mostly to the resentment inside PJ for Lopez departure a few years ago.  Ramon Muchacho already lost 4 years ago against Grateron, by a rather wide margin considering that it was an open 4 way race where the opposition had been unable to agree, a major scandal at the time even though Chacao is the safest opposition district in the country.  I think it is a useless distracting move by PJ and I wish the best to Grateron in the primary because he has also been a very decent mayor.  I am calling this one for Grateron in spite of the dirty campaigning of Muchacho.

Another rather mean move of PJ is in Baruta district even though at least they have an excuse there.  3 years ago the natural heir of Capriles, then outgoing mayor of Baruta, was stopped from running for an "inhabilitacion".  Uzcategui would have been a shoo in for the job and now he wants his revenge even though Gerardo Blyde did not do a bad job with the town hall, making a point to insist of continuity of a good administration, something that PJ has no consideration for.  In fact, Uzcategui is aware that like Mendoza he does not have much of a case and runs very emotional ads bringing forward shameless imagery of Capriles.  Thus in Baruta we have an interesting race where both newcomers and old timers are divided between two symbols of the new politics of Venezuela.  I am afraid that the race will in the end go for Uzcategui because of the pull of Capriles at the top and not his own merits.  But at least Blyde has a chance.

The other districts of Miranda are a free for all that all should result in a PJ victory, which stress even better that PJ should have graciously conceded at least Chacao.  But as I have noted PJ is starting to look more and more like the old parties......

Aragua governor

The only race to watch there is for governor and maybe Maracay mayor.  I think that the grip of chavismo is still too strong in that state in spite of all its failures and corruption, even the governor seat will be hard to pry.  Thus the interest of the local primaries are strictly to see how opposition parties evolve, namely if PODEMOS will be able to become a real option (doubtful since its leader left Aragua to run for a Caracas job) or whether AD and COPEI may make a slight come back.  That is, the question is will PJ be able to fill the political void of the state (UNT is nowhere to be seen there).

PJ has a good chance.  It has an appealing candidate in Richard Mardo who barely lost Maracay mayor in 2008 and won without much trouble the Maracay seat for the national assembly in 2010.  He should win the governor primary even if in front he has Henry Rosales who may have won the 2008 primary but was soundly beaten for the governor race.  Henry Rosales thus represent a little bit the old party system there and his score will be telling: if he does not get at least 40% that will mean that AD, COPEI, MAS are done with as PODEMOS prefers to hide its weakness behind PJ (possibly getting the top spot for Maracay mayor).

This race is crucial for PJ because if it is about to take control of most of Miranda it seems woefully unable to really score big outside of Caracas area.  This make the Aragua race one of the top 5 races to watch because if Mardo wins the primary it will be the first major victory of PJ outside of Caracas and its graduation from regional party to national party.